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Legislative Update

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The following are summaries of final action by legislatures on state education budgets and other education-related matters.

NEBRASKA

Governor: Ben Nelson (D)

FY 1996 state budget: $1.8 billion FY 1996 K-12 budget: $545.9 million FY 1995 K-12 budget: $526.1 million

Percent change K-12 budget: +3.8 percent

Highlights:

  • Legislature scaled back the amount by which school districts can expand their budgets. The previous budget limitation was 4 percent to 6 percent; as of this year, it will be 3 percent to 5 percent.
  • Beginning next year, special education will be subjected to the same budget limitation as school districts. Over the past four to five years, special-education funding had been increasing at a much higher rate of 10 percent to 12 percent. The legislature discussed studying how school districts will be able to meet special-education needs under the new limitation but did not make any projections about how this would be done.

NEW YORK

Governor: George E. Pataki (R)

FY 1996 state budget: $33.1 billion FY 1996 K-12 budget: $9.9 billion FY 1995 K-12 budget: $9.8 billion

Percent change K-12 budget: +1 percent

Highlights:

  • Lawmakers rejected Mr. Pataki's proposed freeze of state operating aid for schools and lifted his budget's cap on transportation and construction costs.
  • Legislature approved many of the Governor's proposals to repeal state mandates, with savings to the state estimated at $133 million.
  • Approved budget includes staff reductions at the state education department, which were sought by Mr. Pataki. But funding for the agency's facilities-planning office was restored.

TENNESSEE

Governor: Don Sundquist (R)

FY 1996 state budget: $13.1 billion FY 1996 K-12 budget: $1.998 billion FY 1995 K-12 budget: $1.881 billion

Percent change K-12 budget: +6 percent

Highlights:

  • Lawmakers spent $7 million on the first phase of a court-ordered plan to equalize pay between teachers in large and small school districts.
  • Starting next year, 16- and 17-year-olds will be required to have had a learner's permit for three months or a driver's-education course before they are allowed to get a driver's license.
  • Students with an unauthorized firearm on school property will be expelled for one year under new legislation.
  • Lawmakers established prostitution-free school zones, as well as a minimum seven-day sentence and $1,000 fine for any person found to be promoting or soliciting prostitution within 1 1/2 miles of a school.
  • A new law extends certain truancy provisions from grades K-6 to K-12. Judges may now assess a $50 fine or five hours of community service against parents of a truant child in kindergarten through 12th grade. Previously, the law had applied to parents of children up to grade 6.

VERMONT

Governor: Howard Dean (D)

FY 1996 state budget: $729.7 million FY 1996 K-12 budget: $219.3 million FY 1995 K-12 budget: $211.9 million

Percent change K-12 budget: +3.5 percent

Highlights:

  • Legislature approved a measure that will repeal the state's school-construction-aid program as of next March. A legislative study group will draft proposals for an alternative funding plan this summer. The program, which did not have the funds to sustain itself, paid for up to 50 percent of school-construction costs and 70 percent of a district's debt service.
  • The legislature also passed a law that prohibits smoking anywhere on school grounds. Districts are required to adopt policies to enforce the measure.
  • A new law will limit spending by school districts without a voter-approved budget to 87 percent of the most recently passed budget, but the law will free local school boards to decide how that money should be spent.

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